The Academy certainly has been busy this pre-holiday week admitting a record number of new members , setting dates for the Oscar season and now updating guidelines for eligibility and campaign practices.
In regard to the latter the Academy’s Board of Governors has approved rules and campaign regulations for the 89th Oscars. According to the Academy the most significant changes adopted at Tuesday night’s board meeting affect the Los Angeles qualifying run required in most categories and the New York qualifying run required in the Documentary Feature category.
The Academy’s release states that “to be eligible for 2016 Academy Awards consideration in most categories, a feature-length film will still need to complete a Los Angeles qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, but screenings during this period must now occur at least three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 and 10 PM daily. Films that complete their Los Angeles qualifying run before July 31 are exempt from this additional requirement”. This is a tightening of the rules to prevent distributors from trying to qualify a movie by only doing one screening a day in a theatre, as well as making sure that one of the required screenings will now be considered a “prime” show during peak evening hours. This is similar to what was done a couple of years ago to qualify documentary features. Many distribs have been able to skirt the 7 Day qualifying rule by basically just hiding the film in an outlying Los Angeles area theatre with generally just a 1pm or late night screening in order to comply. No more. This will be especially hard on those films that are primarily going VOD but also want to quietly qualify as a theatrical release.
In the Documentary Feature category, the geographical area in which the New York qualifying run can take place has been expanded to include all of the city’s boroughs.
The release say other amendments to the rules include standard date changes and other “housekeeping” adjustments.Rules are reviewed annually by individual branch and category committees. The Awards Rules Committee then reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the Board of Governors for approval.
Updated campaign regulations, which specify how companies and individuals may market to Academy members any movies and achievements eligible for the 89th Academy Awards, are also presented to the Board for approval. Again according to the Academy the most significant changes affect members’ attendance at certain types of screening and non-screening events.
The Academy now states that “music Branch members may not be invited to or attend any screening, non-screening event or concert that includes a live performance of music eligible for nomination”. This is significant as it reflects a growing practice for artists with an eligible song to stage a mini-concert such as Brian Wilson did last year in support of Love & Mercy, or particularly the numerous appearances of Lady Gaga singing her song , “Til It Happens To You” at luncheons or receptions where music branch members were invited. In recent years the Academy has had a hands off policy in the pre-nomination period but they are cracking down on this practice now no matter what time of year it occurs.
Another new forbidden area detailed in the release states that “academy members may not be invited to or attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote. Members who fail to comply with this regulation will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations, as well as all other available remedies”. Most of the lunches, brunches, dinners, receptions etc have been required to also provide a screening availability of the film in question, but this new regulation emphasizes that blatantly trying to influence members at a non-screening event or party is verboten. That one will be harder to prosecute. At one point do you hold Oscar voters hostage and say they can’t go to dinner or a party? Usually the busts on this sort of thing are triggered by rival awards consultants who alert the Academy when they see or hear of this kind of illegal activity.